14 News Special Report: The Pill That Kills

14 News Special Report: The Pill That Kills
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:37 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Law enforcement across the Tri-State says the area is experiencing a crisis.

Numerous overdoses and deaths have happened because of a very dangerous opioid – fentanyl.

Officials say it’s cheaper to buy, so criminals are lacing other drugs with it or using it to make counterfeit prescription painkillers like Xanax and Percocet.

14 News spoke with the family of a 20-year-old boy who fatally overdosed in April of 2022.

“He was all about music, and dancing, he loved basketball,” Julie Peterson said.

Jadin Deno’s mom Julie says he was a smart kid.

“Too smart for his own good sometimes,” Julie said.

Jadin would graduate from Henderson County High School, and would turn his sights on achieving his next dream of becoming a barber.

“It was right around Christmas time,” Julie recalled. “I called him and said, ‘what is going on.’ He said, ‘mom I need help, I’m doing fentanyl.’”

It’s now becoming common for parents to hear these words. In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 70,000 people died as a result of synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl.

“He wasn’t able to function or do what he needed to do,” Julie said.

Jadin would soon become addicted to fentanyl, a drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin.

“He came here and had lost a lot of weight,” Julie said. “He just looked not like himself.”

Jadin would fight for his life, which included becoming clean for an extended period of time.

“He was actually so desperate to get better, he would actually make up stuff so his friends didn’t know that he was trying to stay away from them,” Julie said. “He was sharing with many people, ‘I’m doing well I’m not going to do this again. Not going to let fentanyl control my life. I have goals and dreams.’”

Jadin’s dreams would come crashing down in April of 2022.

“He was just different, until that night,” Julie recalled. “Tri-Fest came to town in Henderson, and I had told my husband when he had left that night, ‘I have a bad feeling.’”

Julie said she would call her son soon after he left home, but he had already relapsed.

”He hadn’t been gone maybe an hour and a half and I called him to check on him,” Julie said. “He had already taken some, I could tell by his voice.”

What Jadin had worked so hard to escape from, he found himself using again.

“We ended up letting him go to Tri-Fest, and we haven’t seen him since that day,” said Jason Peterson, Jadin’s stepdad.

Jadin would die that night from a fentanyl overdose. Julie has spent the past year grieving the loss of her son, and trying to find solace in support groups.

“It’s getting a little better with time,” Julie said. “I’m just now realizing it’s real. So you have to process that it’s real.”

Synthetic opioid deaths nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021. The opioid leading the fatal charge? Fentanyl.

“We really thought that he was going to stay away from fentanyl, that’s how naive we were,” Julie said. “Had the people Jadin was with known about Narcan and been able to use it, he may be alive.”

Julie says what she has left of her son she cherishes. His music, his possessions, his room, even old videos she was able to find on his tablet.

“This room means everything to me, it’s all I have left,” Julie said.

Julie says she wants parents to feel comfortable talking to their kids about the dangers this drug poses to them, or educating them on how to use Narcan.

“It’s not so much about knowing whether or not your kids are doing it, it’s to let them know that they need to be prepared that this is going to kill them,” Julie said.

Steve Mehling speaks with a 20-year-old Union County woman who is fighting to stay clean from fentanyl after nearly a year of addiction.

Part Two of “The Pill That Kills” airs Thursday night on 14 News at 6 p.m.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, here are some resources available to you:

  • Shatterproof is a free website that can provide you with tools to help fight addiction. They also have links to additional resources on their website.
  • WARM (Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor) is an inpatient recovery treatment center for women located in Henderson, KY.
  • River Valley Behavioral Health in Owensboro, KY provides substance abuse recovery,
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a toll-free number to provide callers with addiction and recovery treatment facilities near them. The SAMHSA hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
  • The National Suicide Hotline (988) also offers suicide and crisis intervention options for those dealing with substance abuse issues.

For more information on fentanyl, including the distribution of counterfeit pills, you can visit the CDC’s informational page on it.